Gender trends and patterns:
- Both boys and girls are doing better- over last 50 years, performace of boys streadily imporved- performance of girls imporve at faster rate- Coffey (2000) suggests, this hardly justified labelling boys and underachievers
- Only some boys are failing- close link betwen boys underachievement and social class- Epstein et al, show that compared to other groups, a high proportion of WC boys are failing
- Hiding girl's faulure- pre-occupation with so-called failing boys' diverts attention from underacheiving girls- Plummer- high proportion of WC are failing
- Not just gender, is only one factor that contibutes to underachievement- note dynamic influecnes of class and ethnicity
External explanations for girl's improvement in ac
1) impact of feminism
2) Changes in family
3) Changes in women's employment
4) Girl's changing ambitions and perspectives
Impact of feminism
- Since 1960s, feminism has challenged traditional sterotypes of a woman's role as mother and housewife within a patriarchal family- more broadly, feminism has raised girls' expectations and ambitons with regard to careers and family
- Partly reflected in media images and messages- McRobbie's study- compared 70s magazines and 90s magazines
70's magazines- stressed importance of getting married, love and house work and not being 'left on the shelf'
90's magazines- presented images of assertive, career minded independent women
- Weiner- Teachers have more forcefull challened sterotypes since the 1980s and many sexist images have been removed from learning material
- HOWEVER- Best and Abraham- women continue to be presented as passive or in a narrow range of often domestic jobs whilst men are shown as active and in high positions and status
Changes in family
- Increase in divorce, cohabitation and lone-parent families- mainly female headed
- These increases have changed girl's attitudes to education: -increased number of female-headed lone-parent families may mean more women need to take on the major income earner role= creates nre financially independent, career minded role model for girls- need for good qualifications is made very clear
Changes in womens' employment
- Some women are breaking though the invisisble barrier of the 'glass ceiling' to high level professional jobs previously denied to them
- These greater opportunities provide an incentive for girls to take education more seriously
Girls' changing ambitions
- view that changes in family and employment are produucing changes in girl's ambitions supported by research
- Sue Sharpe- compared results of interviews she carried out ith girls in 1970s and 1990s
70s- aspirations low, saw educational success as unfeminine, gave priorities to love, marriage, husbands and children before careers
90s- more likely to see their future as independent women with a career, rather than being dependent on a husband and his income
1) Equal opportunities policies
2) Positive role models in schools
3) GCSE and coursework
4) Teacher attention
5) Challenging steretypes in the cirriculum
6) Selection and league tables
Equal opportunities policies
- Belief that boys and girls should have the same opportunities are now part of mainstream thinking. Policies such as GIST and WISE encourgae gils to pursue careers in non-traditional areas.
- Introduction of the National Cirriculum (1988) meant that boys and girls had to study the same things
- Jo Boaler- equal opportunities policies are key factir in the imporivement of girls educational performance. Schools have become more meritocratic which means that because girls in general work harder than boys they acheive more
Positive role models in schools
- Proportion of demale teachers and female headteachers has increased. As such womens in positions of power and authority acted as important role models for girls because they show girls that it is possible for them to achieve important positions
- This reinforces the importance of education in gaining such positions.
GCSE and coursework
- Some argue that chnages in the way students are examined have favoured girls and disadvantaged boys.
- The geder-gap in achievement increased after the introduction of GCSEs and coursework in 1988
- Mitsos and Browne- girls are more successful in coursework because they are better organised and more conscientious than boys. They found that girls tend to spend more time on their work, take more care on it's presentation and are better at keeping deadlines. All of this helps girls to benefit from the introduction of coursework in GCSE, AS and A levels
- Research shows that teachers respond more positively to girls than boys. This is because teachers see girls as more co-operative and boys as more disruptive. This may lead to a self-fulfilling prophecy in which positive interactions raise girls' self-esteem and levels of acheivement
- Barber- found that teacher-pupil interactions were very significant. For girls, feedback was focused on their work rather than their behaviour, for boys the reverse was true,
- Research by Abraham- suggests that teachers perceive boys as being more badly behaved than girls in the classroom and as such expect bad behaviour
Challenging sterotypes in the cirrciulum
- Some argue that removing gender sterotypes from treading shcemes, textbooks and other learning material has removed a barrier to girl's achievement
- Weiner- since the 1980s, teacehrs have challenged gender stereotypes. Also, in general, sexist images have been remvoed from teaching materials, this may have helped to raise girls achievement by presenting more positive images of what women are capable of
- HOWEVER, Abraham and Best- found that women continue to be presented as passive or in a narrow range of often domestic jobs, whilst men are shown in businesses and the work place
Selection and league tables
- Marketisation policies anf greater use of selection have created much more competitive climate among schools. In this light, girls are seen as more desriable recruits as they achieve better exam results.
- Conversely, boys are seen as 'liability students' which are barriers to the schools efforts to climb leagu tables
- Jackson- found that the introduction of exam league tables, which place a high value on academic achievemnt has imporved opportunities for girls. This tends to produce a self-fulfilling prophecy in which girls are more likely to be recruited by good schools and therefore are more likely to do well
Explanations for the underachievement of boys
Mitosis and Browne- beliee that boys are under-achieving in education, although they also believe girls are disadvantaged
Atkinson and Wilson- research shows that the gap between boys and girls ahcievement at school grows between 7 and 16. Their study of 500,000 children shows that despite boys outperfrming girls in maths and scienve in early schooling, by the age of 16 girls were achieving higher results in both subjects.
1) Boy's poorer literacy skills
2) The decline in 'traditional' male jobs
3) Unrealistic expectations
Boys' poorer literacy skills
- Evidence sugests that girls are more likely to spend their leisure time in ways which compliment their education and contribute to educational achievements.
- Mitsos and Browne- Place considerable emphasis on reading- women more likley to read than men and mothers are more likely to to read to their children- Girls are therefore more likely to have same-sex role models to encourga ethem to read
- As such, poor language and literacy skills are likely to affect boys performance across a wide range of subjects
The decline in traditional male jobs
- The decline may result in WC boys lacking motivation- Mitsos and Bornw- this decline in male employment opportunities has led to a crisis of masculinity. Many boys now believe that they have little chance of getting a proper job, this underminds their self-esteem and motivation and so they give up trying to gain qualifications
- HOWEVER, while their may be some truth in these claimes, it should be noted that the decline has largely been in traditional manual WC jobs, many of them semi-skilled or unskilled. Traditionally, jos would have been filled by WC boys with few qualifications- it therefore seems unlikely that the disappearnce of such jobs would have much of an impact on boys' motivation to gain qualifications
- Research indicated that boys are often surprised when they fail their exams and tend to put their failure down to bad luck rather than lack of effor
- Becky Francis points out that boys are more likely to have career aspirations that are not only unrealistic but often require few formal qualifications, whereas girls' aspirations require an academic effort and therefore are committed to schoolwork.
Internal factors affecting boys' achievement
1) Feminization of education
2) Teacher interaction
3) Laddish Subcultures
The feminization of education
- Tony Sewell- boys fall behind in education because schools have feminised. This means that schools tend to emphasise feminie traits such as methodical working and attentiveness, which disadvantages boys
- Sewell sees coursework as a major cause of gender differences in achievement. He argues that some coursework should be replaced with final exams and a greater emphasis should be put on outdoor adventure in the cirriculum
- Barber- teacher-pupil interations very important. Girls, feedback is work focused whereas for boys reverse is true- low exectations of girls in science reinfoced their own self-images, boys frequently overestimate thei abilities
- Negative teaher labelling- underminds boys confidence and interest in school- for boys and girls, where motivation in a subject is low, achievement tends to be low
- Mitsos and Browne- Teachers less strict with boys, give them more leeway with deadlines and expect lower standard of work than they get from girls- allows boys to underachieve by failing to push them to achieve their potential
- Mac and Ghail- examines relationship between schooling, work, masculinity and sexuality. He identifies particular subculture 'macho lads' which could help explain underachievement
- Mach lads- hostile to school authority and learning- not unlike Willis' 'Lads'-
- Willis- argued that physical work essential to development of sense of identity, by mid 1980s, much of this kind of work was gone, instead a spell in youth training, followed often by unemployment became norm for WC boys
- Jackson- found laddish behaviour based on the idea that it was uncool to work hard at school, found that boys based their behaviour on the dominant view of masculinity, they acted tough, messed around and disrupted lessons and rejected schoolwork as 'feminie'
- Weiner, Arnot and David- sceptical about the sudden discovery of male achievement. They argue that the media bave created a misleading moral panic, which exaggerates and distorts the extent and nature of any problem
- They argue that although the media are also interested in the underachievement as a particular problem because it is likely to lead unqualified, unemplloyable black and WC men turning to crime
- Cohen- argues that the question is not 'why are boys underachieving' but 'why boy's underachievement has now become an object of concern?'
- Her answer is that it is not just the destruction of the industrial base of Britain, nor it is the result of pressure put on men by feminism, or by girl's superior achievement in recent years
- It is because dicussions about achievement, academic successs and attainment all have boys as their main object. The call for a new focus on boys is not new, but merely perpetuates the historical process which has always assumed boys to have special potential which has not been fully developed. This underachievement has always been protected from scrutiny.
Explanations of gender differences in subject choi
1) Early socialization:
Murphy and Elwood- argue that early difference in gender socialization leads to boys and girls having different tastes in reading and these can lead to differences in the subject the subject choice. Boys tend to read hobby books which develops an interest in the sciences, whereas girlstend to read stories about people which leads to interests in english
2) Gender Domains:
Browne and Ross- gender domains are the tasks and acti vities that children see as male or female territory. Children tend to be more confident in engaging in tasks which they see as part of their gender domain. Could explain why girls are attracted to the arts and humanities subjects and boys prefer sciences.
3)Gendered subject images
Alison Kelly- identifies two main reasons why sciences tends to be seen as masculine, the way they are packaged, the examples used in textbooks and by teachers tend to be linked to boys' experiences such as football and cars. Students themselves make the greatest contribution to turning sciences into a boys' subject- boys dominate classrooms, shouting out answers and grabbing apparatus
4) Peer Pressure
Influences subject choice, boys opt out of dance& music. Paetcher- sees sports as being inside male domain, girls who do sport are seen as 'butch' or even 'gay' if they show much interest in sport
Education and gender Identities
Pupil's experiences of school affect their identies in four main ways (shown later) These experiences help to reinforce Connell calls 'hegemonic masculinity'- the dominace of heterosexual masculine idendity and the subordination of female and gay identities.
1) Verbal abuse- Connell, boys use name-calling to put girls down if they behave in certain ways. Paetcher found that name-calling helps to shape gender identities & male dominance, the use of negative labels such as 'gay and queer' are ways in which pupils control each others sexual identities
2)Male Peer groups- Mac an Ghail, shows how peer groups reproduce a range of different WC masculine identities, e.g. 'Macho lads' in his study were dismissive of other WC boys who worked hard and achieved
3)Teachers and discipline- Hayward, found that male teachers told boys off for 'behaving like girls' and teased them when they achieved lower marks than female students
4)The male gaze- Mac and Ghail refers to 'male gaze' as a way of looking girls up & down seeing them as sexual objects, he argues that the male gaze is a form of surveillance through which dominant masculinity is reinforced and feminity devalued, this is achieved, for example, through telling stories of sexual conquest.